Historic 4th of July parade returns to Bristol

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BRISTOL, R.I. (WPRI) — The cornerstone of America’s longest-running Independence Day celebration was fully restored to its former glory Monday after the pandemic limited the event last year.

The 236th annual Bristol 4th of July Parade was held on a Monday this year, which happens whenever the 4th falls on a Sunday.

The parade began at Mt. Hope High School, continuing a tradition dating back to 1785.

The parade route was packed with thousands of spectators who arrived hours in advance to secure a spot. Some people told 12 News they were up as early as 3 a.m. to make sure they’ll have a perfect view of the parade, including Matthew Perry, who lives along the parade route.

“I came back for every parade when I was in the Navy,” he said, adding he’s attended more than 70 parades. “I get up at 3 a.m. every morning for the parade and have to hold space down in front of the house.”

The Perrys were one of many families living along the parade route to decorate their homes in red, white and blue. They also displayed a painted mural on their garage door to remind paradegoers of the history behind the day.

“That’s always fun to get that out and tell that history,” he said. “Freedom doesn’t come free, you’ve got to work for it.”

And this year, Perry said freedom is ringing even louder following the pandemic.

“This has been an Independence Day where we are free again,” he said.

Taking part in a gubernatorial tradition, Gov. Dan McKee also walked in the parade alongside Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos.

“The king of all parades,” he said. “It’s just wonderful.”

Prior to that, McKee served as the grand marshal of the Arnold Mills Fourth of July Parade in Cumberland, where he was born and raised.

The town capped off its annual concert series on Saturday and held its fireworks display Sunday night, while the carnival at the town common runs through 6 p.m. Monday.

But Bristol wasn’t the only community hosting an Independence Day celebration on Monday, after a rainy Saturday forced many cities and towns to postpone their events.

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